Model Naomi Campbell testified today at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, and admitted she was given "dirty-looking stones" as a gift in 1997, alleged to be "blood diamonds" that fueled Sierra Leone's civil war.
Campbell showed up late to the trial in The Hague, then took the stand to recount a 1997 trip to South Africa where she attended a celebrity dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela. While she was sleeping one night in her hotel room, "Two men were there and gave me a pouch and said: 'A gift for you.'" She waited until the next morning to see what was inside:
I opened the pouch the next morning when I woke up... I saw a few stones in there, they were very small dirty-looking stones. [...] The next morning at breakfast I told Ms [Mia] Farrow and [her former agent Carol White] what had happened and one of the two said 'That's obviously Charles Taylor', and I said 'I guess that was'."
Campbell says she gave the diamonds to Jeremy Ratcliffe of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, but the group said in a letter presented by Taylor's defense team that it "never received a diamond or diamonds from Ms Campbell or from anyone else. It would have been improper and illegal to have done so." Campbell first denied receiving the diamonds to ABC News in April, then told Oprah she didn't want to talk about it out of fear for her life.
Charles Taylor is accused of using the sale of diamonds to fund a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1991-2001, a conflict known best for using child soldiers and Taylor-back rebels cutting off the limbs of civilians. Side note: Taylor's old pal Reverend Pat Robertson was awarded a gold mining concession in Liberia in the late 90's, thanks to a promise he made to Taylor that he would lobby George W. Bush on his behalf. Robertson remains at large.
[Images via AP (top); Getty]